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Disruptive Engagement : Daring to Rehumanize Education and Work ~ Part 2

Posted by: Ronda Devereaux | February 7, 2013 | 12:00 pm



If blame is driving, shame is riding shotgun. In her chapter on Disruptive Engagement, Brene’ Brown tells us that in organizations, schools and families, blaming and finger-pointing are often symptoms of shame. Blame is simply the discharging of pain and discomfort. We blame when we’re uncomfortable and experience pain – when we’re vulnerable, angry, hurt, in shame, grieving.


Blame often creates a cover-up culture. When a culture of an organization mandates that it is more important to protect the reputation of a system and those in power than it is to protect the basic human dignity of individuals or communities, you can be certain that shame is systemic, money drives ethics, and accountability is dead. More than once while reading this chapter the shuttle disaster kept popping into my mind. They skewered one engineer and blamed him for everything. In any government organization there is double, even triple checking and those that check on the checkers. Was it really one guys fault? The media was sure fed information to make it look that way. If you look back on any major incidents fueled by cover-ups you will see the pattern.


The four best strategies for building shame resilient organizations are:


  1. Supporting leaders who are willing to dare greatly and facilitate honest conversations about shame and cultivate shame-resilient cultures.
  2. Facilitating a conscientious effort to see where shame might be functioning in the organization and how it might even be creeping into the way we engage with our co-workers and students.
  3. Normalizing is a critical shame-resilience strategy. Leaders and managers can cultivate engagement by helping people know what to expect. What are common struggles? How have other people dealt with them? What have your experiences been?
  4. Training all employees on the difference between shame and guilt, and teaching them how to give and receive feedback in a way that fosters growth and engagement.


A daring greatly culture is a culture of honest, constructive, and engaged feedback. Whether in schools, organizations or families this doesn’t tend to be the norm. I don’t know about you, but most of the reviews I have ever received were based on some company metric that wasn’t even obvious to those that weren’t at the top levels of the organization. That big red D- on the top of any school paper would be much more effective with proper feedback. Without feedback there can be no transformative change. Strengths and opportunities for growth are just as important in feedback as our failings and

the places where we need to improve.


Most of us aren’t comfortable with hard conversations. If we normalize discomfort by creating an environment where real learning, critical thinking and change are valued, then we know that growth and learning are uncomfortable – but that it’s OK to feel that way. Brene’ tells her students “If you’re comfortable, I’m not teaching and you’re not learning. It’s going to get uncomfortable in here and that’s okay. It’s normal and it’s part of the process.” If people know that discomfort is normal it will reduce their anxiety, fear and shame.


Giving feedback from the strengths perspective offers us the opportunity to examine our struggles in light of our competencies. It doesn’t dismiss our struggle but allows us to consider our positive qualities as potential resources. If we look at what we do best as well as what we want to change the most, we will often find that the two are varying degrees of the same core behavior. Most control freaks are also super responsible and dependable. Giving and receiving feedback is vulnerable. Vulnerability is at the heart of the feedback process. If we can keep off the armor, this process can be a growth and learning experience on both sides.

Article by: Ronda Devereaux

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